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Full text of "Italian drawings for jewelry, 1700-1875; an introduction to an exhibition at the Cooper union museum for the arts of decoration. September 9 through October 19, 1940"




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ITALIAN DRA^VINGS 
FOR JE^VELRY 

1700^1875 



An Introduction to an Exhibition 

at the 

Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration 

September 9 through October 19, 1940 



bi\c. 



ITALIAN DRAWINGS FOR JEWELRY 

1700-1875 

INTRODUCTION 

This pamphlet has been prepared to facihtate the appreciation of the 
jewelry drawings in the exhibition. It does not presume to provide a chapter 
in the unwritten history of Italian jewelry. The book, La Bijouterie ait XIX' 
Siecle, by Henri Vever, Paris, 1906-08, is very helpful for an understanding 
of the period it covers. 

The drawings, approximately six hundred, represent three acquisitions. 
Series 1901-39-, purchased by Miss Eleanor G. Hewitt with funds contrib- 
uted by ten of the early friends of the Museum, was a selection from the 
collection of Cavaliere Giovanni Piancastelli (1845-1926), Curator of the 
Borghese Gallery in Rome. This was the source also of series 1938-88-, 
■(v'hich Cavaliere Piancastelli had sold in 1904 to Mrs. Edward D. Brandegee, 
of Boston, ^\'ho generously made it possible for the Museum to acquire the 
greater part of her purchase in 1938. Cavaliere Piancastelli's reunited collec- 
tion contains more than eleven thousand drawings related to the arts of 
decoration, and the jewelry designs give clear evidence of his attempt to 
acquire as many as possible of drawings which had accumulated within 
individual workshops. 

A third series, 1940-86-, has just been acquired through the Mrs. John I. 
Kane Bequest Fund. It contains several groups of jewelry drawings covering 
roughly the period 1800 to 1880. The largest group by far is composed of 
drawings closely related to one another, attributable to one goldsmith's work- 
shop operating between 1800 and i860 and apparently conducted by an older 
man, "A.M.", and a younger, "N.M.", who worked in close collaboration. 
Other groups are connected with the Florentine jewelry firm Rodolfo 
Tanagli Pagani, with Francesco Tanagli, a designer "Z.C.", and G. Campani. 

THE NATURE OF THE WORKSHOP COLLECTIONS 

The collections of the various workshops consist of drawings which origi- 
nated in one of the following ways: 

(1) . During his apprenticeship, the jeweler frequently needed to exercise 
his creati\e and decorative faculties. As the materials of his craft were most 
expensive, drawings formed an indispensable substitute for the actual 
execution. 

(2) . The matured master brought his ideas to life on paper. Sometimes 
he made drawings "for study," as indicated by the notations which Girolamo 
Venturi, a Sienese goldsmith, wrote upon the back of some of his drawings 
about 1740. 



(3) . There is always the possibility that when the means were forthcoming 
the designs produced as above may have been intended for printed reproduc- 
tion as models. These reproductions served not only to advertise the designer 
but to give him an influential share in the general development of the craft. 
Very elaborate sets, such as those that occin- among the drawings of Giovanni 
Sebastiano Meyandi and of the jeweler referred to below as "the Neapolitan," 
give the impression that they were prepared with this end in view. Such draw- 
ings tend toward a richer and more complicated design than can be executed 
with facility in actual objects. 

(4) . In general, the means of advertising were few and the clientele re- 
stricted. Therefore the jeweler could not afford to carry out all of his ideas. 
But when a customer came, he had to be able to demonstrate his ability, stip- 
ported by a pictorial record of work that he had done. In this respect, the 
drawings were put to much the same use as photographs would be today. 

(5) .A customer likes to choose. In general, therefore, the jeweler had to 
give him the choice of several proposals. Although he could draw upon his 
stock of old drawings, he often woidd be obliged to present new ones to 
indicate that he was in step with changing fashions. 

Drawings prepared for a customer were not always made by the head of a 
workshop. Copies of existing drawings could easily be executed by another 
hand. Fiuthermore, the master often may have prepared a sketch from which 
another man could execute an elaborate drawing in the manner character- 
istic of the workshop. 

It should not be forgotten that the head of a workshop regarded all draw- 
ings made by his journeymen as his own. Surely the master grown old biu not 
yet retired made every use he could of his son or some other relati^'e who 
woidd follow him in proprietorship, retaining for himself the general direc- 
tion of the business and probably handling the accounting. It is interesting 
to observe in the collection from "the Neapolitan's" shop that another person 
supplies the drawings although the price and other comments continue to be 
written in the same hand. Where this ceases to appear it may be assumed that 
the workshop acquired a new head. 

(6) . Some are working drawings, made for the purpose of enabling a 
journeyman to make the actual objects. These show details of construction. 

(7) . When the master himself wanted inspiration during the eighteenth 
century, he could refer to engraved models, which were provided in the coinse 
of the nineteenth century by professional literature. Immediately after 1850 
began the influence of the great expositions. But it was natural that the 
master should seek to perpetuate the memory of his father or other predeces- 
sor in the workshop, or of his teachers. Similarly, each master craftsman 
enjoyed keeping representations of the work of other masters, which he some- 
tiines received as a gift. He liked to have a graphic record of work that had 
impressed him. Ancl finally, it was only human of him to keep some record 
of his own progress. 




(UKOLAMO VENTURI. COLORED ['ROJECTS FOR BROOCHES. LATIN CAPITON ON THE REVERSE 

READS, "JEROME VENTURI, GOLDSMITH IN SIENA, MADE IT FOR STUDY ON THE T\VELFTH 

DAY OF SEPTEMBER IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD l/SQ." I938-88-741O 

There is no reason to assume that any of the exhibited drawings represent 
the stage of production where the liead of the enterprise was primarify con- 
cerned with the general administration of the business, leaving the designing 
and execution to an employee. 



GRAPHIC ASPECTS 

Evidently the collection of drawings which a workshop owned at any gi\'en 
moment contained differing elements: the drawings certainly were different 
in their graphic character, and very probably different in their authorship. 
One category is that of sketches, which are drawings that have been made 
more or less rapidly and lightly to indicate the general shape and decoration 
of an object in its entirety or in its essential parts. Other drawings may be 
classified as projects. These have been refined to a point where they would 
permit a customer to get a sufficient idea of the finished object and by the 
same token enable a journeyman to execute the piece of jewelry or, where 
necessary, prepare a working drawing from which the finished object could 



be made. This double purpose allows for a great variety in the appearance 
of projects. 

Often a project will lend itself to the representation of merely one half or 
one side of the object, as in the case of a symmetrical design. At times there 
are alternative suggestions within a single drawing to facilitate the choice. 
Projects are often limited to black and white even when fashion required the 
use of gems of more than one color. In general the customer had to choose 
the stones to be employed in the design he selected, as this choice greatly 
influenced the price. Therefore the color scheme probably was settled for the 
most part by verbal discussion. It may be assumed that the drawings which 
are elaborate in color were made for study or for impressing the designers' 
high craftsmanship upon employers, agents, and publishers rather than 
prospective buyers of the jewelry depicted. 

CLASSIFICATIONS AND ATTRIBUTIONS 

The great diversity of appearance makes it difficidt to reassemble the 
collections of the various workshops after they have been dispersed. It is not 
always possible to recognize a personal style in drawings which were made 
over a period of decades with the intention of being as objective as possible 
with respect to their graphic appearance and emphasizing only the material 
aspect of the subjects depicted. Only much research and a measure of good 
luck will bring about the identification of the authors of collections of draw- 
ings which are now anonymous. It is often helpful to find a jeweler's remarks 
upon the drawings. Giovanni Sebastiano Meyandi occasionally made notes 
on the back of a project revealing, for example, the kinds of stones used, the 
dates of beginning the work and of delivery, the name of the customer, and 
the name of the person who was to receive the jewel as a gift. They make it 
possible to recognize many unsigned drawings as belonging to his shop, and 
to fix the stages of the development of his style, and they point to Siena as 
the home of this jeweler with the un-Italian name. The dates range from 1762 
to 1794. A large number of drawings by "the Neapolitan" have numbers and 
price indications in an identical handwriting. They are of a somewhat later 
period than the collection of Meyandi. Inscriptions upon some drawings 
prove that people living in Florence were customers of the workshop of 
"A.M." and "N.M.", and a few hint at "A.M." as court jeweler. Because of 
the somewhat confused conditions in Italian accounting before the unifica- 
tion of Italy in 1870, notes regarding prices do not help very much to locate 
a workshop. Nevertheless, the simultaneous use of piasters and scudi points 
to Naples and Sicily, and that of zecchini, lire, and other denominations 
points to Tuscany. Sometimes later owners wrote numbers upon drawings 
or sheets of drawings, one of them using a framing line; but this offers no 
help in the identification of the workshops. 




r.IOVANM SEBASTI.A 



Ml 1 Will. ((ll.dKlll l'l«)|i:(:r FOR A NtCKLACIC WITH A MA1C1II\(; 
EARRING. ABOl'T 1 755. 1938-88-6235 



SOCIAL BACKGROUND 



Most of these drawings refer to jewelry within the reach of only the wealthy 
classes, many of only the very rich. Neither the prices nor the designs show 
any regard for the means or the taste of the common people, whose demands 
required other sources of supply than those represented in the collection. In 
the eighteenth century the wealthiest city in Europe was Naples. 

With a very few exceptions, these jewels were intended for the use of the 
laity, although the sphere of the Church is not altogether lacking. A precious 
pendant suggests a prelate as its wearer, while an enamelled Maltese Cross 
with the Instruments of the Passion apparently was intended for a member 
of a Maltese community. 

Little is known about the social background of the craft itself. The period 
under consideration began with guilds and corporations still in existence, 
but these shortly were attacked as preventing free enterprise and protecting 
the producer without considering the needs of the public. However, the 
religious purposes of Italian corporations, which always played an important 
part in guild activities, survived. 

Probably the most important consequence of the dissolution of the corpo- 
rations as economic units for such a craft as jewelry was that professional 
education could no longer be confined exclusively to the workshops. It 
appears to be more than a coincidence that the teaching of decorative art in 
schools began at the time of the disappearance of the guilds. 



Jewelry becomes a very specialized craft whenever gems are the most impor- 
tant parts of the jewels. Only a man familiar with the problems of technique 
is able to be the designer. On the other hand, if the jewel is a product of 
sculpture though in a small size and a specific material, the design can be 
made by any artist capable of invention. 

Most of the drawings exhibited are quite certainly the work of professional 
jewelers. There is evidence, however, that at least two of the groups were 
drawn by painters who practiced as decorative designers and very probably 
were unable to execute a piece of jewelry with their own hands. One of these 
groups is drawn either by Felice Giani (1757?- 182 3) or, less probably, by one 
of his pupils. Giani was a famous decorative painter and designer of decora- 
tive art who founded in Faenza in 1793 a public drawing school. The jewelry 
drawings may be connected with the work of the school. The drawings of 
tlie second group are very similar in style to that of Giani, and possibly were 
made by another teacher in the school. 

By transferring the general artistic education of youths from the workshops 
to the schools, and by divorcing it from the technical education of the work- 
shops, there arose the danger of losing the artistic tradition accumulated in 
the craft. The more general artistic viewpoint of the schools tended to prevail. 

The period under consideration saw among other changes the transition 
from production without copyright to the economic benefits and the poten- 
tial qualitative setbacks of copyright. It is well to remember that the decora- 
tive arts up into the nineteenth century placed no restraint upon the use of 
another man's ideas. The enormous production of engraved models begin- 
ning with the fifteenth and ending with the early nineteenth century was 
based upon a principle expressed in a motto of the second half of the six- 
teenth century: "Nobody asks where your art comes from provided that you 
have it." The engravings could enjoy a limited protection, but not the ideas 
which they embodied. The difference in procedure between the two stages is 
this: before copyright existed, less inventive workers followed the lead of 
those who really were masters, and took every possible advantage of their 
work; under copyright, however, they had to conceal as much as possible the 
fact that they were copying. The result was that by putting so much of their 
own individuality into the work they lowered the quality of the examples 
which they were using. 

THE OBJECTS REPRESENTED 

Most of the drawings represent jewelry for the use of women. It would be 
as wrong to draw the conclusion that men of the eighteenth century wore 
little jewelry as it would be to conclude from the very few rings or watch 
chains that are to be found that women seldom wore these. In both cases the 
opposite is true, as even the slightest acquaintance with the customs of the 
period would indicate. It is well to remember that men of fashion also wore 



sprays of flowers in jewelry upon their chests and even wore earrings until 
about 1820; so the same design occasionally could have served both sexes. 

Among men, the most highly esteemed jewels were badges of the orders of 
chivalry. Of those represented, two deserve special mention. One is the Order 
of the Iron Crown, founded by Napoleon in 1805 after his coronation as King 
of Italy, at which ceremony the iron crown of the Lombard kings was used. 
The order was renewed after 1816 by the Austrian Emperor Francis I. The 
other is the Ordine del Moretd, founded by Pope Pius VII, (1800-1823), 
which was given only to presidents of the Roman Academy of Arts of 
Saint Luke. 

Nosegays, as brooches or pins, were worn upon the body, in the hair, 
or upon the hat. They constituted, together with rings, the most abundant 
kind of jewelry used by women of the first half of the eighteenth century. 
For this reason they enjoyed a greater prominence smong jewelers than neck- 
laces, earrino;s, corsaaes, and all other kinds of brooches. Soon after the 




PROJFXT FOR A BROOCH BY THE ITALIAN JLUFLER RIFIURII) I( 
1770-1790. I 938-88-799 



'THE NEAPOLITAN. 



middle of the century the bracelet came into a new favor, and the change of 
style put a new emphasis upon the earring. The fashionable notion of wearing 
a portrait of a beloved or revered person as part of a jewel is represented by 
a few drawings. The bow-knot, already favored in the seventeenth century 
as a brooch, regained its popularity in the second half of the eighteenth 
century. It was worn at times upon the sleeve, as was jewelry in the sixteenth 
century. It also formed the central portion of a necklace. With the beginning 
of the nineteenth century a new emphasis was put upon jewelry as headgear, 
first in the form of diadems, of which as many as three were sometimes worn 
at one time. The diadems were soon joined by combs with richly decorated 
cresting. In the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, fillets 
were highly fashionable. The ferroniere or frontlet worn upon a golden chain 
across the forehead gained a degree of poptdarity from about 1810 to 1840 
after having been in disuse for nearly three centuries. 

MATERIALS AND METHODS 

The appearance of a jewel is determined by the quality of the material of 
which it is made as well as by the design. Among the drawings exhibited it 
may be assumed that those up to about 1810 refer to objects that were in- 
tended to be made in a workshop, while some of the later period were pos- 
sibly meant for an extended and industrialized form of production which 
corresponds to the factory method. This may be especially true of designs 
intended to be executed in stamped gold by a process of mass production 
which permitted the use of an extremely thin leaf of gold and gave shape 
and decoration by means of a machine rather than by tools in the hands 
of a workman. 

Most of the earlier drawings refer to objects in which emphasis is laid 
upon the gems or in a lesser degree upon the harmony of gems and the 
mounts or frames of gold or silver. The importance of the metallic compo- 
nents increases greatly while that of the gems diminishes with the advent of 
the nineteenth century. This was connected with the general impoverishment 
following the revolutions and the Napoleonic wars, and with the increasing 
importance of the middle classes with their modest fortunes. The art of the 
chiseler acquired a new appreciation in the early nineteenth century. Small 
metallic sculpture was enjoyed as it had not been since the periods of the 
Renaissance and the early barocjue. 

It may be assumed that in the whole period considered the jewelers bought 
their gems already cut. The period included two events of the highest impor- 
tance for bringing gems into the market: the melting down of jewels in 
France in 1759 and the financial distress of the former ruling classes during 
the revokuionary period at the close of the eighteenth century. 

The drawings which indicate the colors of the gems refer in the eighteenth 
century to white, green, and red stones, to which are added in the nineteenth 




COLORED PROJECT FOR A COMB. IIALV, ABOUT llSlO. 1938-88-967 



century blue, yellow, and amethyst. It may be assumed that the drawings of 
the eighteenth century generally took only costly stones into consideration, 
and that the nineteenth century produced another of its changes in this 
regard, for at that time much use evidently was made of large gems of small 
value and of the so-called Roman pearl, a substitute naade of powdered 
mother-of-pearl upon a core of alabaster. There is no indication of any use 
made of the false diamonds invented by and named after Georges-Frederic 
Strass, (1700-1770), "The Neapolitan's" drawings include some of jewels 
with colored woven ribbons forming an integral part, in accordance with the 
fashion of the late eighteenth century. Cameos make their first appearance in 
the drawings of the early nineteenth century. Enamel was intended for several 
objects of the eighteenth century, especially pendants. Beginning with 1825 
it gained a new importance, being used for jewelry of high artistic value as 
well as for jewels in the stamped technique, A novelty of the time was the 
use of black enamel. Among metals, gold and silver were taken into consider- 
ation, and a small use was made of ornaments of cut steel, so favored in 
English jewelry since the end of the eighteenth century and in continental 
jewelry during the early nineteenth century. Genuine pearls gained an 
ever-increasing importance following 1850, 



STYLISTIC CONSIDERATIONS 

The drawings indicate that from about 1750 the jewelers of Paris set the 
style of the design generally applied by the Italian jewelers. Too much 
jewelry was imported direct from France for the Italian jewelers not to have 
realized that they had to follow the example if they intended to compete. 

The design of the late seventeenth century had proved itself very adapt- 
able, and the period 1725-1750 saw further attempts to transform it. Asym- 
metry became symmetry, the blade curve and the blade-volute lost their shape 
gradually to become rocaille, and the pedestal-shaped support was included. 

French jewelry of the styles of Louis XV and XVI dominated the design 
soon after 1750, especially with respect to necklaces and earrings. The result 
was that design as a whole received more subtlety, articulation, variety, and 
eccentricity, as exemplified by the combination of an extreme naturalism 
with traditional objectivity in a single object, indicated by so many of the 
drawings of earrings perpetuating a type invented in the seventeenth cen- 
tury. The transformation from the broad type of earrings with three drops 
into an elongated type consisting of only two or three parts; the use of archi- 
tectural motifs for the design; or the reduction of the design to primitive 
motifs of grouping the stones; all are in line with French developments 
up to 1795. 

The style of "the Neapolitan's" workshop transformed itself without an 
interlude to satisfy the exigencies of the taste of about 1820 to 1830, keeping 
a generally classicistic character without making sudden changes. 

Elsewhere the usual interlude known as Empire style occurs. The bracelet 
1938-88-969 offers a parallel to the jewels worn by Paola Borghese Bonaparte 
in a portrait by Robert Lefevre dated 1806. In it can be seen a strikingly rich 
realization of the usually dominant principles of the Empire style. These 
include the preference for shining and contrasting unbroken surfaces. Em- 
phasis was placed upon the harmony of the colored gems and the metalwork. 
The latter gained in importance, and often took the shape of a band. 

There is another more purely Italian variety of this style. It is character- 
ized chiefly by the use of the curve and even more by the volute in the shape 
of a circular pediment with a shell inside. This was a motif as foreign to the 
tradition of jewelry as it was firmly established in the general ornamentation 
of the eighteenth century. At this point the influence of an artist not bound 
by the traditions of jewelry becomes especially evident. Perhaps it can be 
attributed to Giani. 

When the Napoleonic period closed in 1815, its predecessors acquired 
a new importance. The very restricted decorative cjuality of the Empire style 
allowed it only a short period of survival in jewelry. But the favor which the 
motif of ears of grain enjoyed during some years may be attributed to it, and 
the motif of the volute retained a very important place for many years. The 
most important inheritance from the Empire style was the framing of one, 



or the connecting of a lew, jDrincipal units by filigree or other linear elements, 
a practice which had de\eloped in jewelry employing cameos but not gems. 

Traditions had been discontinued nearly everywhere, and a new beginning 
was imperati\e. The first phase was a mixture ot the styles of the Empire and 
the latest Louis XM, with designs less clear and luiiform, more com]3licated 
and diversified, and with a growing emphasis upon naturalistic forms. But it 
was no longer possible for one style alone to dominate. Several fashions ran 
concurrently or followed each other in rapidly changing sequence. Predilec- 
tions of indi\iduals could be the determining factor. Romanticism blossomed. 
Medievalism, orientalism, and the later New Greek style find only slight 
expression among the drawings. But the drawings show that parallel to the 
de\elopment in other countries there occurred a revival of the style of the 
second half of the eighteenth century, which was favored especially during 
the second quarter of the nineteenth century. 

More important for the future, however, and more in line with the general 
artistic tendencies of the period, was a style that was thought of as continuing 
the Renaissance. It was already widely current soon after 1840. In reality the 
style frequently has a greater affinity to the baroque than to the Renaissance. 
In jeT\'elry it seems to have begun with jewels in the shape of escutcheons 
^\'hich pro\ecl adaptable to the stamped process. They appear at first as not 
altogether in contradiction to the Empire style. Characteristic of most of the 
jewels in the New Renaissance style is their general shape of either an 
escutcheon or a tablet reposing upon a console, both attached to a wall. The 
tablet points to a connection with the console motif which was much faxored 
in the system of ornamentation of the style of Louis XVI. A feeling which 
corresponds to this style in a general way is strikingly evident in many draw- 
ings in the main section of this group. 

It is not known which center had the precedence in taking up this New 
Renaissance style in jewelry. Certain suggestions point to France, but the 
questioti has not yet really been investigated. This group of drawings offers 
other problems. Most of its divisions are interrelated through certain simi- 
larities, not enough to allow their attribution to one designer but enough to 
point to an interrelationship. This raises the question of whether xve do not 
have exidence here of the influence of school training in the arts of design. 
Most of these drawings give the impression of being older than they are, and 
much handled. It may be asked whether the original designer or a later 
owner attempted to give them an antique appearance. It seems more likely, 
however, that we are dealing with a style of drawings for decorative art 
inspired by one artist or one artistic school. Probably the early specimens 
looked like the escutcheons and other pi^ojects of this kind in a romantic 
Louis XVI style, which were certainly executed in the beginning of the 
nineteenth century. This may have given rise to the sketchy and somewhat 
indefinite appearance of the drawings. At least one of them bears the price 
of the object if it were to be executed. 



The nineteenth century was a period o£ artistic naturalism, which was 
expressed in jeweh-y in a degree far sin-passing that of former styles. The 
drawings of the workshop of "A.M." and "N.M." show the use made of the 
naturalism of the early Renaissance after the transitional phase had passed. 
But "N.M." at his latest goes beyond this and follows contemporary French 
naturalism. The extreme phases make use of fantastic forms of a not unnatu- 
ral appearance, or of close imitations of plants and animals. Especially fav- 
ored was the employment of the serpent. An extreme in natinalism was 
reached in the designs making use of the motif of the Milky Way. This was 
an invention of Eugene Julienne in Paris, who was one of the influential 
designers for decorative art in his time (1808-1875) . 

Classical jewelry occasionally had been copied since the beginning of the 
century in Naples. But the real revival of classical jewelry is connected with 
Pio Fortunato Castellani (1793-1865), and his sons. Alessandro Castellani 
defined the aims of their efforts in a pamphlet. Antique Jewelry and its 
Re-iii-tifd, printed privately in London in 1862 and in Philadelphia by the 
Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. "The new school of 
jewelry established by us at Rome aims at the perfect imitation of ancient 
and medieval works of art in gold and precious stones; each object being so 
executed as to show by its style to what epoch and nation it belongs." He 
told of making copies of Renaissance jewels after having reached this goal. 
This phase of jewelry design is represented among the drawings by those of 
Salvatori, with dates ranging from 1855 to 1872. But Salvatori did not suc- 
ceed in producing designs able to compete with those of the periods he 
intended to revive. Too much of the contemporary nineteenth century has 
infiltrated into his drawings, and they belong in reality to the Etruscan and 
the New Renaissance styles, as the latter is represented in drawings of 
Rodolfo Tanagli Pagani. 

Nothing is known about the existence of any of the pieces of jewelry for 
which the drawings were made. In any case, such a collection of drawings as 
is exhibited is likely to display the general scope of the development much 
more broadly than might be possible with actual jewels. 

Rudolf Berliner 



The icriter u'ishes to acknowledge the assistance received frojn 
members of the Museum staff, esfiecicdly Mr. Carl C. Dcntterman. 



r R I N r I, n H Y T H li JOHN B. W A T K 1 N S C O M T A N V, NEW YORK 



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